SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) have been awarded multi-billion-dollar contracts by the U.S. Air Force. These contracts will see the companies provide launches for national security missions for five years starting in 2022.

The two companies beat out the likes of Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin to secure the lucrative contracts, with final bids submitted in August 2019. The military will spend roughly $1 billion a year on them as part of the second phase of the National Security Space Launch program, organized by the Air Force and the Los Angeles-based Missile Systems Center.

Up to 34 individual launch contracts were included in the overall deals with SpaceX and ULA. The former will oversee 40% of the launches while the latter will handle 60%.

SpaceX, a Los Angeles-based space travel company founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Colorado-based ULA, which is a joint venture of aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin, have provided dozens of launches for the U.S. military in the past decade.

Between 2012 and 2019, the two industry leaders secured roughly $12 billion in launch contracts.

“Maintaining a competitive launch market, servicing both government and commercial customers, is how we encourage continued innovation on assured access to space,” said Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics.

“Today’s awards mark a new epoch of space launch that will finally transition the Department of Defense off Russian RD-180 engines.”

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft lifts off from Florida on May 30, 2020, underlining the US's new space ambitions The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft lifts off from Florida on May 30, 2020, underlining the US's new space ambitions Photo: AFP / Gregg Newton